When it comes to the Detroit Red Wings, it appears a promise is a promise.
The Red Wings re-signed Riverhead, Harbour Grace native Daniel Cleary to a one-year contract Thursday, living up to a verbal agreement made by general manager Ken Holland last year when the 35-year-old Cleary looked ready to join the Philadelphia Flyers as a free agent, but remained with the Wings for far less money.
Cleary’s new free agent deal will pay him a $1.5 million base salary, with another $1 million available in bonuses.
This will be his 10th year with the Red Wings.
Last season, Cleary made $1.75 million with Detroit as the result of a contract reached just before the start of training camp. Prior to that, it looked as if he was headed to Philadelphia after reaching a verbal agreement with the Flyers on a three-year, $8.25 million deal.
But the Flyers couldn’t officially make that deal immediately because of salary-cap issues they were waiting to clear up and that allowed Cleary more time to contemplate the possibility of remaining with Detroit.
He had made no secret of his desire to stay with the Red Wings, whom he helped to a Stanley Cup championship in 2008, and Red Wings’ head coach Mike Babcock wanted him back. Problem was that Detroit was also hard up against the salary cap at the time and couldn’t match the Flyers’ offer.
But a compromise was reached, with Cleary leaving money and term on the table in Philadelphia to take the one-year deal with the Red Wings. In return, Detroit general manager Ken Holland promised he would do what he could to re-sign Cleary this year.
"(Bringing back Cleary) has more to do with last year,” Holland told the Detroit Free Press Thursday. “My program has been one of loyalty, and there's good things and bad things that go with that. Way more good, in my opinion.
“I reached out to a lot of people before signing Dan, and he's very popular in our organization and with our on-ice leaders."
Cleary had four goals and four assists in a forgettable 52-game season in 2013-14. By late January, he found himself a healthy scratch. Then a nagging knee injury meant he was shut down for the remainder of the campaign. He didn’t appear in a game after Jan. 28.
“I’m happy for the opportunity to come back and play,” Cleary told the Free Press.
“I’m putting in a lot of effort to get ready and have a bounce-back year.”
In 13 full NHL seasons, and parts of three others, with the Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes and Red Wings, Cleary has appeared in 921 games, more than any other Newfoundlander, scoring 164 goals and adding 221 assists for 385 points.